Jackson makes her baskets traditionally, from long coils of sweetgrass, pine needles, and bulrush, bound and woven with strong, flexible strips from the palmetto tree.

Artist, basket maker. Born in Mount Pleasant on February 15, 1945, the daughter of Joseph and Evelyina Foreman, Jackson grew up in an African American community of basketmakers and learned the craft as a child from her mother. She started creating baskets seriously in the mid-1970s, and soon mastered a variety of shapes and types, including the rice-winnowing tray called the “fanner,” grain storage baskets, and flower, market, and sewing baskets for domestic use. Her solo exhibition at the Gibbes Museum of Art in 1984 introduced her to the public. Since then her career has grown dramatically, with representation in major crafts shows, and in the public collections of the Smithsonian Institution, Philadelphia and American Craft Museums, Museum of African American History in Detroit, Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, and U.S. embassies abroad.

Jackson makes her baskets traditionally, from long coils of sweetgrass, pine needles, and bulrush, bound and woven with strong, flexible strips from the palmetto tree. Her innovation has been to create baskets of original design. “From the family I learned all the traditional pieces and styles, and then I just started doing my own designs. I wanted to make something that no one had ever made before. The forms would be different—very simple, yet elegant.” This was accomplished in examples such as the “Cobra,” a variation of a market basket, and her daring, abstracted interpretation of a fruit basket in the series she calls “Untitled,” consisting of a narrow, disk-like base and sweeping handle.

Attentive to formal and decorative qualities in her baskets, Jackson employs the soft, natural color and textures of her materials, creating a subtle interplay of light and dark concentric bands, or dynamic overall patterns. She has control over the building of forms in perfect balance, tension, and symmetry that gives her work a natural solidity and grace.

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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Jackson, Mary
  • Author Roberta Kefalos Sokolitz
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • URL http://www.scencyclopedia.org/sce/entries/jackson-mary/
  • Access Date December 17, 2018
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • Original Published Date June 8, 2016
  • Date of Last Update October 27, 2016